SFgarden
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Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

Hi there ... Apparently I should have done more research BEFORE working my garden, but ...

I have a raised bed with poor, dry, clumpy rock hard soil. Today my hubby dumped two small tractor buckets of cow manure (4-6" worth), plus I added two bricks of peat and 4 20L bags of vermiculite. All was well tilled, however with the ground being so hard, only the top 3-4" if soil was mixed with the manure.

How long do I have to wait to plant seeds? Does it make a difference for root veg vs leaf, vs fruit setters?

Manure was in a pile since last spring in our pasture. The cows have been out there all winter and occasionally like to stand on "turd hill". There may be some fresh manure, but very little. It has barley and wheat straw bedding and dirt mixed in. Hubby rototilled the pile prior to bringing it to my garden.

I was planning to plant seed tomorrow (starting with onions and my pepper seedlings along with some storage beans), but then I read that I will need to wait 3-4 weeks before planting? And ideally 160 days for harvest after adding manure?

Please help! Thanks!!

PumpkinBlythe
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

Sorry I can't help. I do not use manure. I use ground coffee beans!! I look forward tolerating the answers. I am new to all this!!

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applestar
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

I have also read to provide at least 2 months before using manured ground/garden bed. But I think that is for really fresh cattle slurry type manure. It sounds like yours was more towards "aged manure" except for the "turd hill" contributions (sorry but that image was hilarious :lol:)

That said, I would still be a bit leery of root vegs and fresh leafy greens in there for the first month or so.

But main concern to me is that very often seeds will NOT SPROUT in too rich soil.

Very young seedlings, too may be harmed by too much nitrogen or grow too fast which can lead to a big overhead sign to the pest bugs "COME AND GET IT!" How big are your pepper seedlings?

Try pre-germinating the beans. It's very easy -- just soak overnight, then rinse twice and drain well, then out in a jar laid on its side. Rinse three times a day if you can (you'll know if it starts to smell) they will germinate (grow a root tip) on second or third day. Many other seeds can be pre-germinated like this, too. **even easier if you have a seed sprouter for growing sprouts**

(Ummm onions? Usually onions are sown very early while it's still cold -- are these scallions?)

Another option is to make trenches of less rich soil within the bed -- I'm picturing something like 1/4 of the rich soil and 3/4 of less rich (even equal mix of peat and ... Oh you said vermiculite? Hmmm vermiculite might hold too much moisture in addition to the other ingredients you mentioned. Perlite or even sand would have been better...) -- anyway plant your seeds and seedlings in the trench, and by the time their roots grow out to the rich soil, they would be able to handle it better. Hopefully the manure would have had the time to mellow and earthworms and moles would have gathered to work the hard soil and manure to help mix them together.

BTW I would use a garden fork to the full tine depth in the clay subsoil -- stab, stand until tines sink in, then step off and pull on the handle to fracture the soil underneath. This helps to get the nutrients to wash deeper down in to the clay and create channels for the earthworms to travel in.
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SFgarden
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

Thanks Applestar. Yes it was mostly aged. (About 1 year) There would have been very little fresh (if any). It was dry-ish and a rich dark bark brown color. It had almost no smell.

The vermiculite and peat (and "compost") was the reccomended soil additions from the book square foot gardening which is what I was attempting to do. I do have an alternate space in which I can plant for this year, but it's dry hard soil (our big old traditional garden instead of my new raised bed).

The onions are onion sets (bulbs) and they are late. We normally put our garden in first of June, but it's has been unsusally warm here this spring.

I am running out of time so I may have to plant in the big garden and just work my soil all summer for a beautiful soil for next spring :( I will also grab the potato fork and see how far down the soil is worked. It also rained all night last night after I made my mixture, so soon as it drys out I will till it again. I've read this helps release some of the nitrogen?

gumbo2176
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

I use stable waste in my garden and that consists of straw, horse manure and wood shavings. I get it from the local police stables where they keep their horses and I make sure to take it from piles that have been out in the dumping area for several months. I'll wheelbarrow it into my garden and till it under, but I till several inches deep to mix it into the soil.

When I first made my garden many years ago I had a serious issue with hard clay soil and it has taken many years of adding composted material, stable waste, oak leaves and yard waste to make my soil what it is today. It should go quicker in a raised bed due to its size, but I would want to get that soil turned under at least twice as deep as you say your soil has been turned.

I have gotten fresh stable waste before and I'll put it in a pile behind my shed and add kitchen waste, grass clippings, leaves, etc. to it and let it sit for several months before using it. I also turn it over at least once a week to help it break down evenly.

SFgarden
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

I've read to take a small sample
Of the soil in a pot and see if seedlings die/seeds sprout. I could for sure do this.

If the seeds/seedlings survive is there any health risks associated with having too much manure/not waiting long enough before planting?

Thanks

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rainbowgardener
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

There could be health risks if it were fresh manure. Manure that has sat aging in a pile for a year should be fine, as long as the fresh deposits on "turd hill" are minimal.
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SFgarden
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

Rainbow - they would me minimal. The cows seem to like to stand on the highest vantage point. Haha! Hubby would have taken this manure from the bottom/edge of the pile which is not typically where they stand. On average there might be one cow for an hour or so once a week on the "hill" - if that. Hubby states there was "nothing fresh" in it and the cows have not been in that pasture for about two months, however they were out there all winter. REALLY should have done my homework BEFORE adding it. Haha!

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sweetiepie
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

I would say your manure is fine especially if like you say it has bedding or hay mixed in the manure. If that is mostly broke down then it should be fine. If you want to know if it is a little rich you can buy a little meter to test for fertility. I got a 4-way analyzer, it reads fertility, light, moisture and ph. They don't cost much.

SFgarden
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

That's a great idea sweetiepie. I didn't even think of that. Lol. I'm going to throw a few seeds in a pot and I will grab a meter this week. Thanks! Does the one you have show soil content? Or just if it's okay or not?

imafan26
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

To be safe you should probably consider it all fresh since the new additions will contaminate the rest of the pile. That means that you should not harvest for 120 days.

Since the ground was hard and the manure not worked in that deep. I would work on adding more organic matter like compost and continue to work it in. Manures are not that high in nitrogen compared to synthetics but they also contain salts which would not be good for plants either. Instead of planting veggies the first time around, grow a cover crop like
Crotolaria (Sun Hemp), mustard, or daikon . They have deep roots that will help break up the compacted soil. Crotolaria is also a legume and if it is inoculated it will also add nitrogen to the soil for the next crop. Cover crops are grown until they flower and then they are cut down and tilled in adding biomass, scavenging excess nutrients and in the case of inoculated legumes, add slow release nitrogen. The crops will grow one to three months, since they are not eaten but tilled in, they will help build the soil and allow time for the soil web to grow. After about 90 days from the time you added the manure, it should be safe to plant your food crops that will matures 30+ days later. It means you won't get much out of your garden until the fall, but it will be prepared well for the next time.

If you want to try to plant a food crop, you could try to work in more compost and till the soil deeper and let it set for 30 days then plant a crop that is harvested at least 90 days later that have edible parts that do not touch the ground and you will cook before you eat. This means root crops, and leaf crops are out, since they are usually 50 days or less. You could grow corn which will mature in about 80 days from germination and you cook the ears before eating. They also have husks which will protect the corn from dirt and dust.
Last edited by imafan26 on Thu May 28, 2015 4:35 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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meshmouse
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

SFgarden -

Can I ask what the size of your raised bed is. Also, I'm assuming you're in or near San Francisco, is that right?

I think you've gotten some good advice here and there is nothing I disagree with. But I think the best advice you got was your own - 'so I may have to plant in the big garden and just work my soil all summer for a beautiful soil for next spring'.

It sounds like you're in this for the long haul, so I think it would be a good investment of time and resources. It seems your tilled soil would currently be about 10 - 12 inches deep and that will shink as things further degrade. While that would be sufficient to get some production from some things, if you could get it to a depth of 2 feet, most things would do much better in the long run.

I would attack the bed in managable sections. Shovel what you've already got onto a tarp or whatever and then get a pick axe (if necessaary) to go down another foot, piling the clay soil on to another tarp. Then, mix alternate shovels from each pile and mix.

If turd hill has more to offer, you could keep incorporating that as you go. How is the worm population at turd hill?

Maybe next year you could start converting your regular garden into a series of raised beds in the same manner.

I'd be leaning in that direction given the circumstances.

Good luck - meshmouse

SFgarden
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

Meshmouse I'm in canada. On the prairies. Hubby says he "moved" the manure last spring and is at least 2 years old. So I may not have put in two much, given it's more degraded than I thought. The chance of their being the odd new pile (while slim) still exists, however from what I have read that shouldn't be a huge concern health wise as long as we wash our veggies well when it's time to eat.

The bed is about 60 sq feet and I would guess is currently 1/3 dry dusty dirt, 1/3 manure and one 1/3 equal parts of vermiculite and peat. I was following the square foot gardening book which recommends 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat and 1/3 vermiculite, but it would be too expensive for me to get that much vermiculite. The soil feels nice and airy right now. I have used this bed for the last 3 years and we have only ever tilled 6-8" because it's solid clay under. Things have done okay, but not great because the old dirt was dry and baron with no nutrients. I'm thinking things would grow, but my biggest concern would be health and safety. Would there be any health concerns and would the food be safe to eat if I have overdone the manure or if there was some "non aged" droppings.

The manure also comes from our own cattle who are all healthy, and is stored on our own land but of course I cannot know the ecoli content. It looked dark brown and had quite a bit if straw mixed in (wheat and barley straw from bedding). Hubby rototilled it before bringing it to my garden, to it also has some black dirt in it.

I would LOVE to convert the big garden into raised beds on the square foot gardening plan, but I can't. I share it with my mother in law and weeding is a constant battle (and is the main reason I have created my own space). Our "big" garden is over 750 sq feet. So huge!

This property is the "home quarter" of our farm, so we will be here for the next 40 years or so until my hubby retires from farming. Ideally in the long run I would build raised beds in the "big garden" with 4" spacing and seed grass (Sherpa fescue) in between. Easy and manageable!! It will be at least 5 years or so before my MIL will be at a point of no longer being able to use the large garden and it would be solely mine to do with as I would like. This year was going to be my trial year for the square foot garden so that I would have the fall and spring to plan out my boxes for next year. VERY disappointing if I cannot :(. If there is no safety issues I would still like to try planting a few things in there just to try out the location and plant placement. I would likely do "back up" in the big garden as well.

I'm going to put some seeds in a pot of the dirt today and see what happens

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sweetiepie
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

SFgarden wrote:That's a great idea sweetiepie. I didn't even think of that. Lol. I'm going to throw a few seeds in a pot and I will grab a meter this week. Thanks! Does the one you have show soil content? Or just if it's okay or not?

Mine just says if it is poor, ideal and too much because I bought it for the ph level. But if would give you an idea.

meshmouse
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Re: Manure in vegetable garden. Please help!

SFgarden -

Oh, Canada..., the true north strong and free. What is your grow zone (or first and last frost dates)? Just curious. You must be having some long days about now.

Regarding e coli - I am no expert and hold no degree in soil sciences, but my sister (who is and does) once told me that 'if you had any idea how much e coli exists in your pants, you would boil them in bleach every day". Her point was that e coli is all around us and that a healthy immune system can deal with it at normal levels under normal circumstances.

On the other hand, from what I remember about the several, serious e coli recalls of spinach, lettuce, etc. over the past decade, it was not that it was on the leaf surface (that could be washed off) but that it was within the cell structure itself (from the water source). Your 'turd hill' is in essence a two year old compost pile and should be perfectly safe. As to the 'fresh toppings' that may or may not be included, I can only say, we all place our bets. I would go with it.

You could always follow 'survival training' protocol. When trying to access the safety of a food source, you would first crush up a bit and apply it to a non-critical piece of flesh (not a joint crease). If no reaction in 24 hrs apply same to a bit of your lip. If still no reaction, chew a small piece. Then, if no reaction, eat a leaf. If still no reaction, eat moderately. After that, pig out.

In your case, you could grow some quick spinach, lettuce, bok choy, radish, whatever, and just taste a bit. Wait a day. If good, eat a little more and so on. I think the greatest risk would be to eat a full, normal serving before you were sure of its safety.

As to your MIL issues. Well, that can be more difficult. Old habits die hard (hey, I've got an idea for a movie). First lesson to learn is to not become that yourself as you progress (age). We all have our heros and villains to guide us. Be thankful, otherwise - how would we know what to be or not to be? (hey, I've got an idea for a play).

It is so great that 'turd hill' is from your own cattle, with known meds, feds and beds. I'm assuming you have a good supply (made fresh daily). Perhaps dear hubby could be careful to eliminate any fresh toppings in your future deposits. The hot center is the safest place of any compost pile.

I'm going to assume your 60 sq ft raised bed is probably 6 x 10 or there abouts. If you divided it in thirds, you could 'develop' one third, plant some short season (lettuce, spinach, radish etc.) in the next third and your long season crops in the last third. You could then later plant fall crops in the first 'developed' third, while you 'develop' the 'short season' third and then finally develop the last third in late fall. All ready to go in spring.

Regarding weeding. I would definitley use well composted manure as a mulch. In a short while, you could show MIL how few the weeds be. Then she might allow you to mulch even just a part of the old garden, just to see. After the success of your developed bed, she might come to realize that it is a beautiful thing. That's an awful lot of 'ifs, mights and maybes - but what can you lose? The two of you might end up making raised beds together in the old garden next spring.

But I would think you gotta get that pick axe out and dig deep. It would be a good investment in my opinion. Considering the quality of your manure compost, I think you can do without the vermeculite as well as the peat.

Oh, and by the way, what are your cash crops, acreage, etc.

Good luck with whatever you decide to do.

meshmouse

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